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Crosscut Tout: 2 serious students of transit will speak

A chance for fresh insights and less predictability in our car-bike-bus-train fights.

For all the endless discussion of public transportation in an around Seattle, it’s all too rare that a forum presents serious students of transit practices debating basic orientations to transit planning unencumbered by hardened positions we locals often take in pronouncing what we know must be right for us.  

Darrin Nordahl (Making Transit Fun, e-published April 13) and Jarrett Walker (Human Transit, 2011) are both Island Press authors, and an excellent idea it is for their publisher, Island Press, to put them on the stage together, since they vigorously and energetically disagree. Nordahl’s title is his not-tongue-in-cheek prescription for building transit’s usefulness. Walker takes a different approach, urging that the right goal isn’t just to buy any particular transit technology (fun or not) based on its perceived standing in a hierarchy of transit modes. Rather, what matters are community-specific architectures of transit networks designed to deliver best value for money in all-important dimensions of frequency, convenience, and reliability that are the basic draws for ridership. 

Jarrett and Nordahl each have fervent admirers in planning and transit professional circles around the country. It’s a fair bet that part of the interest in the Town Hall event will be listening to the sidebars emanating from the audience. Transit Establishment Seattle is likely to be well represented. But real estate developers, neighborhood advocates, elected officials, labor unions, and construction engineering firms will be in the audience, not on the stage, for this one. Imagine what fresh insights might emerge to infuse our sometimes-stale and predictable civic discourse on transit goals and investments.   

If you go: From Island Press: Darrin Nordahl and Jarrett Walker: Perspectives on Public Transit, 7:30 to 9 p.m., Wednesday (April 18), Downstairs at Town Hall; enter on Seneca Street, $5. Click here for more information and advance tickets.

Douglas B. MacDonald grew up in Seattle and served for six years (2001-2007) as Secretary of Transportation for Washington state. He spent nine years as Executive Director of the Massachusetts Water Resources Authority sewer and water infrastructure agency for Greater Boston. Since moving from Olympia to the Greenwood neighborhood of Seattle in 2007, MacDonald has participated in and commented on a variety of projects and issues involving transportation and transit, land use and environmental policy. He is spending the 2013-14 academic year in Cambridge, Mass. with his wife, Seattle Times reporter Lynda V. Mapes, who holds a Knight Science Journalism Fellowship at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. He is an avid rower, but only on the Concept 2 rowing machine at the gym. You can reach him in care of editor@crosscut.com.


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